Florida set another record Tuesday with nearly 200 more COVID-19 deaths recorded overnight, but for the past few days an ominous sight outside a funeral home has been sending a shiver through a Miami-area city, a refrigerated trailer for store bodies.
Rumors that the bodies of coronavirus victims were being stored there, and unfounded fears that the bodies could spread the disease, have sparked several protests in recent days outside the San Jose Funeral Home in Hialeah.
“We went to the funeral home to ask about it and they told us that they were in capacity and that they had bodies infected with COVID-19 that they were storing in that container,” Liliana Vázquez Acosta, who lives near the funeral home and who first sounded the alarm, he told The Miami Herald.
Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernández acknowledged that the remains were being stored in the trailer, but said that “the refrigerated container does not have the bodies of people who died from COVID-19.” He said the trailer was moved Tuesday to a fenced-in area elsewhere on the property that is out of sight of neighbors.
“This was never a danger to anyone,” he told NBC News. “The Hialeah Health Department dealt with all of this from the beginning. I understand the concerns of people living nearby, but this is a side effect of the times we live in.”
María Villatoro, vice president of operations at the funeral home, did not confirm whether any of the bodies stored in the trailer were from people who died from the coronavirus, but said Tuesday that they want to be good neighbors.
“While there is no risk, what we have shown to health officials, elected officials, and the police when they inspected the facility, out of a great deal of understanding and compassion for our neighbors, we have worked with the Mayor and other officials to change the location of our special care center away from our neighbors on the other side of our property, “he said in a statement.
Even if remnants of COVID-19 remain in the trailer, they pose little danger to the living, according to the latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.